Converting Keighley Catholic schools into academies will not undermine their local links or their ability to respond to threats such as the English Defence League, according to a spokesman for the initiative.

Holy Family Catholic School, Our Lady of Victories Catholic Primary School, and St Anne's Catholic Primary School are forging ahead with a plan to become part of a multi-academy organisation called the Christopher Wharton Trust. The three schools between them have more than 1,500 pupils, and have previously staged a consultation exercise for parents.

Tim Garthwaite, temporary clerk to the new trust, said this body has a clear commitment to localism.

“While we have a vision for providing Catholic education from three to 18 years of age for our children in a co-ordinated manner across Bradford district, each school also has local relationships and local problems to solve," he said.

"The way that we're able to mobilise 'the good guys' in Keighley to respond to EDL activity and other similar threats just underlines the need to maintain relationships across the town. It is one of the things that Keighley is really good at doing.”

The Christopher Wharton Trust eventually intends to include most of the Catholic schools in Keighley and Bradford District.

St Anne’s and Our Lady of Victories aim to convert to academy status on July 1, with Holy Family following shortly afterwards.

The schools will break away from Bradford Council and receive funding direct from the government. Each school would still be run by a head teacher and governing body, but would be linked together by a trust board. The schools will retain their own badges and uniforms.

Sam Poulton, head teacher at St Anne’s said, “It has been a long road to establish the trust and we're very grateful to the Catholic community in Keighley for supporting us.

"The inaugural directors of the trust are all volunteers, predominantly drawn from Keighley. The next few months are going to see a lot of work to establish the routines of the trust and welcome other schools as they join us, but at present there is a quite clear Keighley focus.”

The trust is being named after Christopher Wharton, who was born in Ilkley in 1542.

He served as a Catholic priest in Yorkshire at a time when Catholicism was illegal. He was arrested in 1599, condemned to death and executed in York.

John Devlin, head teacher at Our Lady of Victories and chairman of the trust, said: “I'm quite excited by the prospect of Blessed Christopher’s patronage. His life story is a great adventure story in its own right.”